Doing Nothing is Not Enough Sep13

Doing Nothing is Not Enough...

There’s always a reason to avoid helping someone. Finances, distance, capability, health, or other obstacles often stand between me and assisting a friend. Maybe they need help moving, but my sprained ankle won’t allow me to lift boxes. Maybe they’re having a rough day, and I can’t take them out for coffee because I’m out of town. Maybe they’re going through financial difficulties, but I have no money to spare. Standing by and doing nothing makes me feel worthless. What can I do when I’m prevented from offering something tangible to those in need? Granny from Summer Wars is intimately familiar with this problem. At eighty-nine years old, there’s not much she can do when a vicious virus breaks out in OZ, the virtual world that connects just about every facet of society. Some of her family are prevented from visiting her on her birthday because of traffic jams; others, because they are dealing with the crisis in their jobs. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. She could have stayed put, bitter that this event occurred on what was supposed to be a special day. It’s not like there was anything else for her to do—she couldn’t drive out to help direct traffic or volunteer at a hospital. She could have easily looked at all the things she couldn’t do, and let the situation play out. But instead, she decides to encourage. After hearing about the crisis on the international news, she gets out her address books and starts calling everyone she knows who might be involved with the situation—emergency personnel, old friends, government officials. “Don’t lose heart!” she tells them. “This is something only you can do.” “You betcha you can!”...

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies May18

Prodigals, Parables, and Black-Belt Bunnies...

Ever laid awake at night wondering what the story of the Prodigal Son would be like if it included Facebook, nuclear threats, and a black-belt bunny? (Yes, you read that right.) Well, put your insomniac wonderings to rest. It’s a thing. Summer Wars is a feature-length anime that includes a shaggy-haired protagonist, furries, feels, and familial ties; it also manages to double as a modern-day parable for the social media generation. In summary, Japan’s proud Jinnouchi family gathers to celebrate its matriarch’s 90th birthday, but the festivities are put on hold when the futuristic, world-wide network, Oz, goes haywire and a virus program threatens to bomb nuclear facilities around the world. (The black-belt bunny comes into play as a virtual avatar meant to combat the virus, in case you were wondering.) Summer Wars is about reconciliation—not just in a literal sense, between a prodigal son and his family—but also on a narrative level. The film attempts to merge two unlikely genres, sci-fi and slice-of-life, and the result is as odd as, well, anime. But it works. Summer Wars also asks many thought-provoking questions: How do we keep technology from replacing face-to-face interaction? How should the new generation embrace the customs of the old one? How does tradition compromise with a world so reliant upon change? How does an estranged family member come back into the fold? Parables are meant to make the listener uneasy with themselves because they demand on-the-spot self-reflection. That last question serves as the emotional crux of Summer Wars. Wabisuke, the youngest son of the Jinnouchi matriarch, takes his inheritance money prematurely and runs off to America to spend it. Years later, the prodigal cleans up his act and returns home to be welcomed by his mother and restored into the...